By Gabriel Onyango
A trademark is any mark, logo, name or sign that differentiates the products or services of one business from another. It acts as an identity for a business and allows customers to easily find you. However, failure to obtain a trademark in time exposes you to a whole world of trouble.
What do you do when you finally decide to register a trademark, and instead find that someone has beaten you to it? Just imagine, after working for years to build a brand and an identity, your trademark turns out to belong to someone else. Quite a common occurrence, as I found out in a conversation with a trademark officer from the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI).
A trademark covers any distinctive word, letter, slogan, heading, label, signature, or a combination of these, in two/three-dimensional form. Below are the steps to register a trademark:
- Design your trademark in a way that will make it easy to use it in your packaging, look at popular trademarks for inspiration; Coca-Cola, Cadbury, Safaricom, Apple, HB pencils etc.
- Submit the trademark on a label of about 3 by 2 inches in size, attached to a filled search request form TM27.
- A similarity check will then be run on the national Register of Trademarks, to confirm if no other similar mark exists, that may confuse the public. The search costs sh3, 000 for local applicants and USD $150 for a foreign applicant.
- If the search is successful you will be given an application form, TM2, which you will fill and pay sh4,000 (local applicant) or USD $200 (foreign applicant) as application fee.
- Your trademark will then be examined against the requirements of the Trademarks Act and Regulations. If it complies, KIPI will advertise it in the Industrial Property Journal or Kenya Gazette (in some cases) for any party that wishes to oppose to do so.
- In 60 days, if no notification for an opposition is received by KIPI, the registrar issues a certificate of registration.
- In case of opposition, a hearing before the registrar with both parties present is convened for a ruling. However, if any of the parties is unsatisfied with the Registrar’s ruling, the case can proceed to court.
- After registration, you will need to renew the trademark every 10 years indefinitely. In addition, you are at liberty to license, assign it to someone else or change ownership details of the trademark; all done by KIPI.
For foreign applicants, an agent, who must be a practicing advocate in Kenya, must be appointed to represent them in the registration process. In addition, all fees must be in dollars. For locals, just visit KIP offices at Popo Road off Mombasa Road, South C and register your trademark.